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Budget speech for Acting Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Labour: Hon S.R. Van Schalkwyk- Vote 28 Labour

15 MAY 2018

Agbare Voorsitter,

Agbare Minister en Adjunk Minister van Arbeid,

Ander Agbare Ministers en Adjunk Ministers,

Agbare Lede

Gaste in die gallery

Mede Suid - Afrikaners

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As ons vandag in die middle van werkersmaand staan, en ek bevoorreg is om as waarnemende Voorsitster aan die laaste begrotings debat van Arbeid van die 5de Parlement deel te kan neem, kan ons nie aan beweeg voordat ons nie n terugblik op die verlede gehad het nie.

The evolution of our labour laws and workers' rights come a long way Honourable members. This journey can be traced back to the Masters and Servants Acts of 1853, which were designed to suppress workers and repress trade unions. These laws required the obedience and loyalty from servants to their Masters, with infringements of the contract, punishable before a court of law, often, with a jail sentence with hard labour. Our people were sent to potato farms for failure to produce a dom-pass, and for being at a place without a valid work seekers permit.

Prior to 1995, an employee could be dismissed in terms of the contract of employment, which could permit any reason for dismissal. Since 1995, an employee may be dismissed only for misconduct, operational reasons and incapacity. The Labour Relations Act 1995 is a pivotal piece of legislation, as it recognises the need for fast and easy access to justice in labour disputes.

It is "fact and not fiction" that through the ANC, workers today are able to seek employment wherever they choose. Once in employment, they can count on protection against unfair labour practices. Workers today can sit around the table with the employers and negotiate their working conditions. These things did not fall from the sky, but it was as a result of the hard work of the ruling party and those who are the friends of progress.

You will also be aware that South Africa is guided by the international best practices when it comes to crafting labour relations regulatory framework.

We draw a lot from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions and recommendations, when developing our labour relations dispensation. In addition, all our labour laws have to pass the scrutiny of the robust Economic and Social Impact Assessment and most importantly, they also have to be in line with the spirit and the letter of our Constitution. These various tests through which our labour laws have to undergo, give most of us a degree of comfort that we are at least not trampling on the fundamental rights of our citizens.

As a matter of fact, our Labour Laws are a direct expression of our Bill of Rights which of course owes its origins from the 1955 Freedom Charter and nothing more. None of our labour laws fall outside of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution remit, none at all.

Hon Chairperson

No one disputes the fact that lasting victory over poverty and hunger requires the creation of decent work opportunities and sustainable livelihoods for all our people. South Africa's democratic elections from 1994 to date, were about the aspirations and collective desire for a better South Africa and a better life for all. They were about a journey to bring an end to the legacy of apartheid and to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

I submit therefore, that decent work is the foundation of the fight against poverty and inequality, and its promotion should be the cornerstone of all our efforts. Decent work embraces both the need for more jobs and for better quality jobs. The creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods remain at the core of the ANC government's agenda. The task of addressing joblessness, poverty and inequality is a responsibility of all of us and not just one social partner. For this we need to stop the blame game, and demonstrate that we are indeed committed to the future of this country.

The majority of South African workers have no other place they call home other than South Africa. They do not carry two passports. Therefore, if South Africa is in trouble, they do not have a holiday home in some exotic Islands in the middle of an ocean somewhere. They literally have nowhere else to run to. South Africa is all what they have, therefore building and defending hard fought freedom, is not an option but a duty.

We recognise that a society based on poverty for many, and prosperity for a few, carries the biggest risk to all of us. During the platinum strike of the recent past I over-heard one worker representative pose a very sharp question, and it went something like this; "If you won't let us dream we won't let you sleep".

What happens when real opportunity for everyone earning below the poverty line, evaporates entirely? What happens when people can't find decent paying jobs that they can afford to live on? What happens when people have had enough? These questions are difficult, but in a small way, the ANC government through its policy interventions, is providing answers to these questions.

The debates on the National Minimum wage Bill is a case in point. Often those who oppose this intervention, are those that are living comfortably in the leafy suburbs, some of them have never worked for someone else in their entire lives. I call it: They were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Some of them do not understand what it means to work for nothing, but tips, like many waiters and waitresses in our restaurants.

Those, as the Minister of Labour once said, who claim in well- spoken English, to care about workers, but when they are asked to sign-on the National Minimum Wage, they show their true colours by opposing every attempt that the ANC is placing before parliament in the interest of workers. History will judge you harshly. She said, "at least today we know who really cares about the low paid workers".

Honourable Chairperson; Let me highlight a couple of what I consider to be key achievements in this Medium Term Strategic Framework period.

a) Progress in moderating workplace conflict through advocating a multi-year approach to collective bargaining agreements. This is confirmed by the decrease in the number of unprocedural strikes recorded since then.

b) In the past a trade union had to have 50% + 1 union representivity in order to qualify for majority rights such as the right to union representatives and access to information; Today even in cases where a union does not command a 50% +1 representivity, a Commissioner may award majority rights to a union that is considered to be sufficiently representative, as long as no other union in that workplace already has majority rights.

c) In terms of Section 186, a dismissal is no longer just limited to the termination of a contract of employment by an employer, but termination of any employment.

This means that, where an employee is stationed with the client of a Temporary Employment Service, and the client decides to terminate his employment, the employee can refer the client to the CCMA irrespective of the contract with the Temporary Employment Service, due to the fact that the employment relationship is between the employee and the client.

d) Failure to offer permanent employment once a fixed term contract has lapsed can be seen as unfair dismissal, where the employer cannot justify why no such permanent appointment can be made.

e) An employee may not be employed by a Temporary Employment Service on terms and conditions not permitted by the LRA, or any employment law, sectoral determination or collective agreement applicable to the employees of the client to whom the TES employee renders services.

f) Fixed term contract that exceeds 3 months without justifiable reason would result in that employee automatically becoming a permanent employee.

h) Review proceedings brought by employers in respect of arbitration awards handed down by, for example, the CCMA, will no longer suspend the enforcement of those arbitration awards; Unless certain considerations apply.

This will bring to an end the tendency of some employers who take CCMA awards on review merely to frustrate a worker.

Honourable Chairperson, Whilst these achievements are profound, we are aware of a number of challenges that the department still need to deal with, including the issues raised by the Auditor General. We request the Minister to note all the issues raised by the AG and to ensure special and focused attention to be given.

These include, but not limited to concerns of the AG about Fruitless and Wasteful Expenditure, under performance on certain programmes, regression in the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Notwithstanding the challenges that are there, we want to commend the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration for being the shining example of what running an institution should be. The CCMA is the jewel in the Department of Labour Crown. Keep up the good work CCMA you make us proud.

We acknowledge that we came from a very difficult past with the Compensation Fund where in some instances backlogs as far back as the 70's could only be dealt with in the recent past ( this shows us how the service to our workers has been dealt with back then ), but through the Action Plan by the not so brand new Commissioner Mafata to address the challenges in the Compensation Fund notable improvements continues to produce.

The Department of Labour performed well in 2016/17, obtaining an overall achievement of 74% and a 75% on the Employment Creation Strategic Objective.

The Committee notes the slow pace in which vacant funded posts are filled and therefore recommend that, taking into consideration the high level of unemployment in our country, it is important that vacant funded posts should be filled without delay by the Department and its entities.

In the current financial year the Department and its entities received a total of R 3. 295 billion. The budget allocation has increased by R75.8 million from 2017/18 allocation in real terms. We know that in the current economic climate the norm is a reduction in the allocation of Departmental Budgets but the ANC government supports the important role of the Department of Labour and its entities and therefore increased the allocation to, among other things

a) Ensure that there are R35,8million more available to employ inspectors and to provide them with the relevant tools of trade. This is a concern from all political parties in the committee being addressed, especially with the anticipation of pressure that will be put on its resources after the implementation of the National Minimum Wage. As we know honourable members, there are currently many employers who are not adhering to the low wages prescribed by the Sectoral Determinations and even more might take chances with the NMW, hence this provision.

b) Ensure that the budget of the CCMA be reviewed to R963,1 million, an increment by R48,8million to reflect the increased responsibilities that will come with the implementation of the Labour Law Amendments currently being considered by Parliament

To advance the purpose of the Public Employment Services Programme to provide assistance to companies and workers to adjust to the changing labour market conditions and regulate private employment agencies an amount of R160. 2 million goes to Non-profit organisations namely Deaf Federation of South Africa, National Council for the Blind, Workshops for the blind, and Work-centres for the disabled. We are indeed showing that the ANC is a caring government towards the vulnerable, disabled and the poor. We however know that unemployment is rive and therefore we need to see an increase in the placement rate of jobseekers. We encourage Other government departments to use the services offered by this programme.

The strategic objective for the Labour Activation Programme is to enhance employability of UIF beneficiaries, enable entrepreneurship and preserve jobs. In this regard the UIF aims to target 450 000 beneficiaries with learning and work place opportunities, and achieve a 90% training lay-off scheme applications with complete information recommended or decline by the PAC (Project adjudication Committee).

To deal with the unemployment challenge will require "all hands on deck" predicated on strong partnership. The National Development Plan calls for a social compact to reduce poverty and inequality, and to raise employment and investment levels. It is therefore clear that for us to move the country forward all of us need to put the country and our people first. The current phenomenon of grandstanding to score cheap political points by misleading our vulnerable citizens in the hope of convincing them to abandon the ANC and put YOU the DA in power in 2019 must be rejected at all cost.

Bob Marley coined a line in one of his songs which went like; "You can fool some people some times, but you can't fool all the people all the time". Die werkers van Suid- Afrika weet wie gee werklik om vir hul sosiale welvaart. Hul weet ook wie is die wolwe in skaapklere. Hul weet dat die ANC nie langer sal toelaat dat hul tevrede moet wees met krummels wat van die base se tafels afval nie. Omdat baie van die werkers in die kwesbare sektore laagsgeskoold is beteken nie dat hul dom is nie.
Stop taking them for a ride because they are not fools.

The ANC supports the Budget.
I Thank you

     
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